Some researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health have found a close relation between insomnia and Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive neurologic disease of the brain leading to memory loss. The research team had initially provided some evidence regarding cognitive disabilities as a result of poor sleep quality. The journal JAMA Neurology has also published this new finding. Alzheimer’s disease-affected patients lack sleep and are often found wide awake in the middle of night. This is, however, not seen in normal individuals. Disturbed sleep patterns are caused by elevated amounts of beta-amyloid plaques. In reality, the sleep-wake cycle is controlled by changes in the levels of beta-amyloid. This has been clearly shown in community-dwelling older adults by the research team. In this study, 70 adults with an average age of 76 years from Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging were taken. The main aim of the medical investigation was to find a link between deposition of beta-amyloids and variation in sleep.
None of the participants suffered from any type of dementia or mental illness. They had to note down their sleep patterns and calculate the mean hours of sleep each night. The candidates were also required to report any instances of sleep interruption, difficulty falling asleep and early waking. The scientists evaluated the quantity of beta-amyloid deposits in the brain with the aid of imaging tests. According to the results, the sleep duration of the participants ranged from less than 5 hours to more than 7 hours each night. This was supported by the brain imaging findings that showed a strong association between increased beta-amyloid levels and low amount of sleep. The average sleep duration of the candidates was invariably shorter and poorer in quality. The researchers have, however, not linked an elevated beta-amyloid build-up with the number of times an individual woke during the night. The research team believes that their investigation can explain the cause of insomnia or sleep deprivation in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. As it is nearly proved that lack of sleep promotes beta-amyloid accumulation, treatment methods must be timely administered in older adults to prevent or reduce Alzheimer’s disease and its associated insomnia-based symptoms. In this way, the regular episodes of disturbed sleep can be averted. Early intervention can markedly improve the quality of life of the older patients and significantly reduce the medical costs. More such studies are necessary to find out other ways of preventing the onset of this neurological condition.